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Posted at 5:49 PM ET, 09/ 5/2007

About Post Mortem

By washingtonpost.com editors

Welcome to our blog, Post Mortem, by the news obituary writers at The Washington Post -- Adam Bernstein, Matt Schudel, Joe Holley and Patricia Sullivan.

Obituaries have become an increasingly popular feature in the newspaper and online, as well as on Internet discussion groups, in books and magazines and even films. Moreover, they provide insights into culture, politics, science, the arts, business and people's peculiar pursuits. For those of us who write them, obituaries are never morbid because they focus on the endlessly fascinating ways people choose to live their lives.

We believe a good obituary requires solid reporting skills, a sense of history and a dash of good writing.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | September 5, 2007; 5:49 PM ET
Categories:  About this Blog  
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Comments

Why is it that some of your obituary pictures do not show up? Some will display only in the enlarged mode, some only in the smaller version, and others not at all. No other web site seems to have this problem. Please fix it!

Posted by: nixxnutz | October 31, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Can someone explain to me why there's a need for a blog about the obituary section and death in general? Specifically, a need that would justify something this offensive and in such poor taste?

Posted by: FMJohnson | November 1, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Great idea. Obits for too long have been little more than a glorified job resume, couched in trite cliches: "gray slabs of text" as one critic put it. Some of the Brits and Aussies have been far more adventurous. Time for American writers to show what they can do.

Posted by: James | November 27, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I agree that this is a good idea. It is past time for all of us Americans to look death in the face, matter-of-fact. I agree with the comment about resume. Recounting a person's life is not a job application (at least I hope!) My job is not my work and my work is not my life.

Posted by: Robert | November 28, 2007 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Dear All,

As many of you know, the Toronto international obituary conference we were looking forward to unfortunately has fallen through, despite the best efforts of the hard-working Toronto organizers.
Some of you have expressed a very strong interest in a conference geared more toward professional obituary writers.
We doubly agree! Joan Harvey and I have taken the initiative of proposing to organize such a workshop and The Oregonian has agreed to make its conference rooms available to us.
The Oregonian as you may know is the envy of many other newspapers for the amount of space it devotes to obituaries.
We don't intend that this workshop compete with the international obituary organization that Carolyn Gilbert founded, and that we've enjoyed all these years. But the workshops we envision would be open only to professional obit writers.
Among possible workshops for obit writers: interviewing skills, deep historical/courts and cops research, multimedia skills, focusing and writing tight, approaches to candor in obituaries. (Your suggestions welcome here!)
We possibly could also recruit several of the Oregonian staffers to speak in their areas of expertise. Jack Hart, for example, is a nationally known writing coach. We're crawling with Pulitzer prize winners, too.
We imagine this as a Thursday night through Sunday afternoon conference, sometime this spring.
Expenses? You would be on your own for lodging and meals. Portland has many hotels in all price ranges within a 10-minute walk of The Oregonian. We can probably get a group rate through the Oregonian for the Hilton or the Red Lion, also.
Portland is a very easy sell to visitors for its wonderful, small, clean, safe, human-sized, European-style downtown, fantastic mass transit system, great restaurants. And of course Portland is heaven for microbrew and pinot noir fans.
You would not need to rent a car - light rail can whisk you from the airport to the Oregonian, and many of our recreational attractions are right downtown, including eateries in all price ranges. And the nation's largest municipal park is within a short bus ride.
Let us know what other kinds of workshops you'd like to see, and your area of strength.
We imagine everybody would be able to be a speaker and/or panelist at some point in the conference. And we'll need one of you to be our keynote speaker!
Finally, our executive editor would like to see the obit conferees put on a brown-bag luncheon ("black-bag luncheon," we call it) on the Friday of the conference for Oregonian staffers to ask questions.
We would need at least 10 participants in this workshop for critical mass.
Let Joan and I know as soon as possible if this is something you could commit to (Jan. 1 at the latest), then we can firm up a date. Then we would probably ask for a $50 deposit (or something like that) some of it refundable when you get here, just so we know you're really interested.
Feel free to pass this e-mail along to other professional obituary writers you know.
Thank you,

Amy Starke and Joan Harvey

amystarke@news.oregonian.com
joanharvey@news.oregonian.com


Amy Starke
"Life Stories" writer
The Oregonian
1320 S.W. Broadway
Portland, OR 97201
Phone 503-221-8534
E-mail amystarke@news.oregonian.com
Fax: 503-294-5045

Posted by: Amy Starke | December 5, 2007 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Matt for his fine tribute to my friend Tom Terrell in the Thursday, 12-6-2007 Post.

Posted by: Jeff | December 6, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

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